While Australian Shepherds used to be best known as the top preferred herding dogs by cowboys and as rodeo dogs, today, more people are interested in getting an Australian Shepherd puppy as a family pet and companion dog.
These highly active, intelligent, and hardworking dogs have strong herding instincts and require a lot of exercise and play.
They are beautiful and absolutely adorable, especially as puppies, but you may want to read more about what to expect from your Australian Shepherd puppy before adopting one or buying one to see if it is the best choice for your family and lifestyle.
Here are some basic facts about the Australian Shepherd puppy and about the breed itself.
They are fast learners and will thrive well only when properly trained
Australian Shepherd Dogs are naturally intelligent and have very strong herding instincts. Due to being bred as hardworking ranch dogs, these dogs have high energy levels and need to be adequately trained in obedience training.
They are quick learners, and you should start teaching your Australian Shepherd puppy basic commands and limits as early as possible.
Since they are smart pups, they can easily override obstacles such as finding holes in fences, so you will need to keep them well behaved and teach them to respond to commands such as come, sit, lie down and stay, among others.
With sufficient and proper training, these hardworking dogs will stay both physically and mentally stimulated and are less likely to resort to destructive behavior or actions that can be dangerous to themselves and others.
If left bored, they will try to find ways to stay active and entertained, which is not good for them or for you.
The Australian Shepherd puppy requires a lot of exercising
Since they are working dogs, they need to stay active and get enough exercise to stay lean and healthy. Without the required physical exercises, your puppy can quickly become overweight, which can lead to more serious health conditions and can cut short its lifespan.
This makes them suitable pets for people who lead active lifestyles and who have securely fenced yards.
Even if you don’t have an outdoor space where you can let your Australian Shepherd puppy roam for several hours a day, you can still get a dog from this breed, providing that you ensure it gets the walks, jogs, hikes, games, and action it needs on a daily basis.
They can get attached at the hips to one or more people
When you get an Australian Shepherd puppy, you should be prepared to have a constant companion who will happily spend as much time as possible right beside you.
Like other “Velcro dogs,” Australian shepherds get attached to one or more people and will eagerly follow you everywhere and cuddle with you as much as is possible.
This is wonderful news for dog parents who adore cuddly and loving pets, but without proper management, this behavior may turn into separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety can lead to unwanted and even destructive behavior, which is difficult to curb and manage.
The name of the breed is quite misleading
Despite being named Australian Shepherds, these dogs do not originate from Australia. In fact, they were first bred as herding dogs by the Basques in Spain and parts of France, who later took their dogs with them when they left their region and immigrated to Australia in the early 19th century.
There, these Spanish dogs were crossbred with English shepherd dogs, such as Border Collies, which is where today’s Australian Shepherds originated from.
When dogs from this breed were imported to California by the Basques who moved there from Australia, they were given the name “Australian” largely by mistake.
This wonderful dog breed is also known under other names, such as Blue Heelers, Pastor Dogs, Bob Tails, California Shepherds, Spanish Shepherds, and New Mexican Shepherd dogs.
Heterochromia is common among Australian Shepherds
Although it may sound like a frightening health condition, heterochromia is not an illness. It is rather the term describing the trait which gives many Australian Shepherd puppies different colored eyes. So, you shouldn’t be surprised if your puppy has one bright blue and one brown eye.
Plus, their eyes can come in various colors, including green, blue, golden, brown, and marbled. The colors of the eyes may change after puppyhood, so you can be up to a big surprise when you add an Australian Shepherd puppy to your family, as its eye color is very hard to predict.
Legends have it that Native Americans used to call the dogs from the breed “ghost eye” and considered them sacred animals due to the color of their eyes.
Related: Native American Dog Names
What is also hard to predict is the coat color of the puppies from this breed. It can be black, blue merle, red, red merle, with or without white and tan colors.
Some Australian Shepherd puppies are born without tails
While tail docking is no longer acceptable or common practice, you may have noticed that some Australian Shepherd puppies have a small nub or no tail at all. This is because one in every five of these dogs is born without a tail, or is born with a bob-tail.
Since this trait is due to a specific mutation that, if doubled in one dog, can be fatal for the puppy, responsible breeders would never breed dogs with these same mutations specifically for the bobtail feature. This means that there is no guarantee that the puppy will be born with a bobtail, no tail, or with a tail.
Australian Shepherds are superb therapy dogs
Being naturally intelligent and hardworking makes Australian Shepherds easy to train as therapy and other types of assistance dogs, including seeing, hearing, or other service and emotion support animals.
They are commonly trained as search and rescue dogs, and sniffing dogs too.
They are, of course, still trained and sued as one of the best herding dogs and dogs performing tricks at rodeos in the US as well.
If you want to train your Australian Shepherd puppy to be a therapy dog, you will need to find an experienced trainer and speak to your doctors about how to best proceed with the training.
No matter whether you want the Australian Shepherd to be your family pet, or a therapy dog, always make sure that you check your local rescue groups as well as the shelters and online adoption search engines for dogs of this breed in need of adoption and a forever home before buying one!